Mario Kart has dominated the light-hearted racing genre since its inception on the Super Nintendo. Pretenders to the throne have come and gone but, more often than not, they lack the roster of familiar characters required to offer the same charm found in the plumber’s racing outings.
Surely Sega, with a legacy that spans decades and a diverse portfolio of popular game stars, could prove to be the publisher that drops a banana skin on Mario Kart’s victory lap?
February 26th will present us with the answer in the form of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.
Following on from the success of Sega Superstars Tennis, this sees the publisher take a variety of familiar characters out of its back catalogue and put them in the driving seat.
It is these Sega icons that are truly going to sell All-Stars Racing, with recognisable faces from almost every property the publisher has making an appearance. As the name suggests, the star of the show is Sonic, with the likes of Tails, Amy and Dr. Eggman also joining from that universe.
Long-time Sega fans will also recognise the likes of Super Monkey Ball’s AiAi, Samba De Amigo’s Amigo, Space Channel 5’s Ulala and even Ryo Hazuki – not seen since Shenmue II.
Additionally, some versions will have their own specific racers. Wii owners will be able to play as their Miis, while Xbox 360 gamers will be able to play as their Avatars. The 360 version will also allow consumers to control Banjo and Kazooie, who have appeared in kart racers before, including 1997’s N64 hit Diddy Kong Racing and Banjo-Pilot on GBA.
Each character has its own range of vehicles to choose from, inspired by their standalone outings. Players will be able to jump into the driving seat of sports cars, bikes, planes, a Super Monkey Ball, a giant banana and even Ryo’s forklift truck.
Like all titles in this genre, gameplay is simple and accessible. Players choose their character and race around a track in a chaotic battle to cross the finishing line first.
In this case, circuits are inspired by familiar locales from a multitude of Sega titles old and new, from Sonic’s Green Hill Zone to the House Of The Dead mansion.
Every vehicle will have its own special manoeuvres that help the character overtake their rivals, while a bizarre arsenal of weaponry enables them to knock the competition off the tracks. Pick-ups include missiles, mines and other weapons, and each of the Sega stars can use their own specific All-Stars Moves to deliver more devastating attacks.
Naturally, a game such as this shines as a multiplayer offering. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing boasts a healthy range of multiplayer modes that will cater to family or friends who enjoy a spot of competitive mad-cap karting.
The splitscreen mode allows up to four players locally, while the online multiplayer supports up to eight players for much greater chaos. Single players will also have plenty to choose from thanks to the inclusion of Single Race, Grand Prix, Time Trial and various mission modes.
The premise of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is instantly familiar to anyone, from experienced gamers to non-gaming parents and grandparents, thus increasing its appeal beyond that of typical core gamers and Sega fans.
Kart racing games have always been popular and a combination of the family-friendly appeal of the visual style, the extensive marketing campaign (see ‘Start Your Engines’) and Sega’s roster of iconic characters means All-Stars Racing is sure to perform well when it races on to the High Street.
START YOUR ENGINES
As one of Sega’s major releases this quarter, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing will be the subject of a comprehensive marketing campaign, promoting the game to its broad target audience as well as calling to veteran Sega fans.
– There will be a two-week national TV campaign with 20-second ads running on various channels, including Channel 4, Five, ITV2, 4Music, E4, CITV, POP, Nickelodeon, MTV, Dave, FX, Comedy Central and Sky 1.
– The TV drive is supported by a three-week dedicated promotion with Cartoon Network. The game will be the focus of a dedicated online site, with game editorial and trailers, as well as 40-second spots running on the company’s satellite channels.
– Online, there will be a three-week advertising campaign featuring homepage takeovers and dedicated creatives on key websites.
– A one-month print campaign will see advertorials appearing across a range of specialist and children’s publications.
– All of the above will be supported by a five-month specialist and consumer PR campaign raising awareness of the game’s arrival.